More delicately flavored than its cousins the onion, shallots, and garlic, the leek has a similar history but its own distinctive flavor and panache. While it’s similar-looking to a green-topped garden onion, it is much larger and cigar-shaped, with tiny hairs for roots rather than a bulb.
Biblical accounts illustrate how desirable leeks were even then: the children of Israel thought seriously about returning to Egypt, the land of their captivity, just to taste them again.
Leeks in today’s gardens are usually planted quite deep to deprive the stems from sunlight exposure, which keep the tops white and tender. A delicious addition to green salads, another easy and nutritious way to enjoy leeks is to slice them thin and sauté them – alone or with other vegetables – making them a perfect base for stir-fry cooking and creamy soups.
Health Benefits of Leeks
When sliced or chopped, the many antioxidants leeks provide begin converting to allicin. Allicin provides an abundance of important attributes to the body, such as anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal activities, and reducing cholesterol by impeding harmful enzymes in liver cells. Another major benefit is the 52% daily requirement of vitamin K, and a more than 29% daily requirement of vitamin A.
Leeks contain healthy amounts of folic acid (needed for proper DNA absorbsion and cell division), as well as niacin, riboflavin, magnesium for healthy bones, and thiamin. Adequate intake during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects in newborns.
Leeks Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies Done on Leeks
Being from the same family, leeks provide some of the same nutritional benefits that garlic and onions do. They’re proven to have diuretic, laxative, and antiseptic properties, and contain the cancer-fighting compounds kaempferol, which support the heart and blood supply system, and quercetin, which inhibits carcinogenic synthesis in the body.
Allium vegetables, especially garlic, onions, and leeks are known to contain beneficial compounds that fight diseases, including stomach and colorectal cancer1. Studies have found that allyl factors in leeks, while inhibiting these cancers, may also help prevent breast, esophageal, colon, and lung cancer.
Leeks Healthy Recipes:
Creamy, Aromatic Leeks Soup
|1-2 Tbsp. (approximately) of butter
||1 onion, diced
||1 leek, thinly chopped (optional)
||10 stalks celery, chopped medium fine
|1 Tbsp. rye flour
||1 quart vegetable stock
||1 pound Stilton cheese (or the sharper bleu cheese)
||Generous amount of black pepper, to taste
|About ½ cup raw, organic milk
||Sea salt to taste
- Melt butter in pot and add onion and leeks. Stir well for about 5 minutes or until slightly softened.
- Add celery, stir and sauté about 2 minutes or until celery softens slightly.
- Sprinkle in rye flour until it’s absorbed. Pour in stock, mix well, and simmer about 30 minutes.
- Stir in Stilton cheese until partially melted, leaving some small chunks.
- Mix in raw milk and adjust seasonings to taste.
Leeks Fun Facts
Leeks have been the national symbol of Wales for at least 700 years. One legend has it that Welsh patron Saint David (who died in 589 AD.) and his soldiers wore leeks on their helmets in a battle – fought in a leek field – against the Saxons.
With its own set of nutritional benefits and flavors, leeks have been part of the human diet for thousands of years. They contain powerful antioxidants for staving off disease and eliminating free radical damage, and the significant quercetin presence by itself fights cancer.
One of the world’s oldest known vegetables, leeks add a distinctively delightful flavor to dishes that is milder than the more pungent onion.